Home E-Weekly August 14, 2012

Many Bariatric Patients Fail to Show Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Published: August 13, 2012

A majority of bariatric surgery patients have clinically significant obstructive sleep apnea, but report fewer symptoms than other sleep disorders patients, reports a study in the journal Sleep and Breathing.

Nearly 60% of 269 patients being assessed prior to bariatric surgery had moderate or severe sleep apnea that had not been previously diagnosed, but few reported OSA's common warning signs, notes the study.

The patients underwent overnight sleep studies and completed questionnaires about their tendencies to fall asleep unexpectedly and how normal life activities are limited because of sleep problems. Many of the patients blamed their daytime sleepiness, loss of motivation and interest in activities, poor concentration and memory to issues other than OSA, says Katherine M. Sharkey, MD, PhD, of the department of medicine, division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

Patients with OSA can experience airway narrowing during sleep — and therefore surgery — which decreases air flow and interrupts breathing, says the study, which also notes that OSA patients are at increased risk of perioperative morbidity and mortality, and post-op respiratory issues.

"The lack of symptoms of sleep apnea in this population means that we must be even more vigilant in identifying sleep apnea prior to surgery in order to reduce the risk of complications," says Dr. Sharkey.

Daniel Cook

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